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This is hard to answer because it can always be argued that maintaining the system of legitimacy is in the selfish interest of the rulers.

As far as rulers prioritizing legitimacy over (other) selfish interests, one good example is the peace of Vienna, especially the handing over France in its pre-revolutionary borders to the Bourbons, despite them being in no position to negotiate, simple to establish the principle that the revolutionary government had never been the legitimate government of France.






The congress of Vienna is a very interesting example (I initially planned to discuss it in the article but then thought it might be boring for most people). It was probably the first serious attempt to establish the New World Order based on general principles (the next two would come after the WWI and WWII). In the end though, I don’t think it the principle of legitimacy made a decisive impact on the Congress decisions.

In the congress, the principle was more honored in the breach than in the observance. For example, the legitimate kings of Denmark and Saxony lost a large part of their patrimony (and would lose more had Austria and Britain not opposed it for selfish reasons). By contrast, two Napoleon former generals were allowed to keep their crowns (in one case, mainly because the king’s wife happened to be Metternich’s mistress).

I think the main reason the allies restored Bourbons (other than clever tricks by Fouche and Talleyrand) was that they had no good way of dividing it between themselves. The allies generally had no problem with expanding their borders at the expense of weaker countries and would expand even more if it were not for their mutual jealousies.

You are right, though, that selfish interests of the rulers can trump the selfish interests of their nations.
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melian
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